Oh the Weather Outside
Tomorrow we are expected to get hit with another huge round of snow. This week New Orleans and Las Vegas have seen snow, so it only makes sense that we here in Wisconsin get even more than our fair share.
However, all of this snow eventually can have a negative effect on our local environment. The most common way to handle snow usually involves a healthy dose of salt. As the snow melts the ice is taken into local water tables and streams. After a heavy snow where people use salt to solve the problem, some tests have shown runoff water that is saltier than ocean water! For more information about the environmental effects of salt, check out the Environmental Literacy’s site.
The economic impact of purchasing so much salt is also becoming an issue. Iowa city is using donated garlic salt, and according to the public works administrator the 9 tons of salt would have been landfilled if they had not thought to donate it. (Now that shows how wasteful we can be when throwing things away and how much better it is to reuse items!)
As a part of Waukesha County’s Sustainability Initiative, the DPW is looking to reduce salt use by 10%. However, reducing salt use does not mean that the roads are necessarily worse. By creating a brine solution, less salt is used. Other municipalities have found that beet juice mixed with a brine is more effective than brine alone.
While municipalities try to control their salt use, we can also make a difference at our homes. Try shoveling as the snow falls so that there is less to handle at once. Try to limit snow-blowing. Avoid using salt. Especially if you are using salt on driveways or sidewalks surrounded by grass, the high salt content that will get onto your lawn can kill your grass. The best thing to do is to remove snow and then use sand or cat litter to increase traction. When these items runoff into your lawn or our waterways they create far fewer problems.